Congressman Says Job Insulated Him from Dealing with Addiction

U.S. Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), who returned to Washington this week after a stint in the Betty Ford Center, said his drinking never affected his job performance and that being a functioning alcoholic made it harder for him to seek help, the Associated Press reported July 6.

“I’ve done my job very well, and that’s one of the ways I fooled myself into thinking I didn’t have a problem,” Sullivan, 44, said. “I never was drunk on the House floor and I never was drunk at work. But I needed to get help to stop. I tried quitting on my own … but I failed every time.”

Sullivan spent a month at the California treatment center to confront a drinking problem he said was getting worse and affecting his home life. “The last couple of months, I was drinking more, mainly at home on weekends in front of my kids and my wife,” he said. “There wasn’t anything like a DWI or something crazy that happened. It was just a personal choice — I wanted to eliminate alcohol in my life.”

Sullivan called treatment “a wonderful experience.”

“Even though it was embarrassing having it out there publicly, I don’t have to keep it a secret anymore,” he said of his drinking problem.

Donna Woods Bauer, director of the Oklahoma Citizen Advocates for Recovery and Treatment Association, said Sullivan’s story could encourage others to seek help. “This isn’t a case of a bad person getting good. It’s about a sick person getting well,” she said. “It’s about recovery as a reality in Oklahoma. He’s saying: ’I needed help. I got it. And recovery does happen.’”

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